GratitudeIn the last few weeks, it seems like several bad days have attacked me all at once. I am once again incredibly shorthanded in terms of caregivers, and for various reasons, some other issues have become intense for me. All of it has been hard. And, when bad stuff happens in my life, it is easy for me to feel discouraged and even hopeless sometimes.

I am a big believer that it is okay for anyone to feel what they feel. For me, shoving down an emotion has never been effective. So, I have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days sitting with the overwhelm and letting myself cry it all out. The thing is, overwhelm has never been a comfortable emotion for me to experience, and in the midst of feeling it, I tend not to have good interactions with the people around me. Because of lots of things that have happened in the past, I have learned that when I am in that space, it is best for me to spend time alone so that I can process and work through what I need to. Overwhelm is never a feeling that I want to experience for too long. And I never want to take out on other people the issues that are mine to deal with personally.

Anyone who knows me well knows that in the last few years I have become very interested in personal growth.  I ask myself questions often like:

How can I increase my self-esteem?

How can I have better relationships?

How can I communicate more effectively?

How can I help others around me feel more positive when interacting with me?

How do I become more of the person that I want to be?

I spend a significant amount of time reading books, watching videos, and receiving training in order to get various answers to those questions, and then I take time to sift through the information and figure out which techniques might work best for me.

Since I started this process, I have acquired some tools to help me answer all the questions above. I tap and use affirmations just about every day.

There is another concept that I just heard about recently that really appeals to me. I call it radical gratitude.

The concept is this: It’s pretty hard to be sad and grateful at the same time. It’s difficult to be angry and grateful at the same time. Most people would find it challenging to be overwhelmed and grateful simultaneously. So, when something negative happens in life, take as much time as is needed to be sad or scared or angry or hurt or whatever the case may be. But then, in an effort not to stay stuck in the negativity, make a list of reasons to be grateful.

Now I know that it can feel impossible to make the mind shift to a place of gratitude when you start from a place of negativity. That is where the radical part comes in.

When was the last time you were grateful that you had access to running water all the time?

When was the last time you appreciated you had electricity or a roof over your head or enough food in your refrigerator or for the many pieces of clothing that you have the option to wear? When was the last time you appreciated that you could see or hear or breathe without assistance or communicate freely with other people?

In my case, I asked myself in the last few days if I could be grateful that I had caregivers the caregivers that I did for as long as they were with me, and for the many phenomenal caregivers I have worked with over the years. I also spent some time being grateful for the good people and relationships that I have in my life, even though I feel misunderstood by some of those people in this moment. I have also taken time to pat myself on the back for stepping out of my comfort zone in terms of my independence, in ways I never would have dreamed of if I had a full team of caregivers surrounding me in the last few weeks. I am emotionally stronger now than I would have been if this situation had happened a few years ago.

I’ve heard it said that at any given moment, anyone can find five things that they can be grateful for.

Please understand that it never my intention to minimize anyone else’s pain or to make light of any issue another person may be struggling with.

I just know that in the last few days, when I have shifted my focus to gratitude, even if only for a moment, the heaviness of what I am going through has decreased a bit. And little by little, the overwhelm has given way to various situations feeling slightly more manageable. That is a good thing.

Being grateful during the hardest of times?

I know. It’s radical.